Suspense packed thriller

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    It’s not very often that Pakistani fiction extends to espionage, intelligence agencies, and the thrill of covert and proxy warfare; at least not in English. That is why Naeem Baig’s ‘Kogon Plan’ is so out of the ordinary.

    It starts with a busted Pakistani intel operation in the heart of Kabul. A fast-paced story moves through the fallout of the failure, complete with breakdown, resurgence and a love affair leading to marriage. Both hero and villain are wounded. But while one recovers at home in a military hospital – even falls in love with the nurse and marries her – the other licks his wounds and begins revenge attacks against the Pakistani team that staked him in Kabul.

    Mysteriously, just as the hero struggles – physically, professionally and emotionally – with the failure, members of his team from the Kabul operation start dying unnatural deaths. And quite in keeping with the shadow world of intelligence and espionage, the good guy realises that a good offence is the best defence, and begins playing out a long plan that takes him to the enemy.

    This motivates his recovery and forms the meat of the book. Of course, like spy thrillers so famous in the west, the hero is forced to take things into his own hands, and fake absence from the bureau while he visits Kabul personally, to lay out his plan.

    In the intrigues that follow not only does he play with the intelligence machinery, but the villain goes as far as attempting to assassinate the president of Pakistan. Readers might find some parts a little strange, especially the face-transplant. But that idea seems inspired by a Robert Ludlum novel – one of the Jason Bourne series, actually – where numerous similar transplants were used, with nobody noticing anything wrong.

    The story seems inspired by a collection of ideas. Sometimes journalists pick up such material from intel spooks when working on their stories, and stick them together, combining fact with imagination, to pen down spy thrillers. David Ignatius is perhaps the best example internationally.

    But Naeem Baig comes from a very different background. Having spent his life in banking, and risen in finance, he’s managed to stay alive intellectually; well enough to produce a scintillating thriller that’s the first of its kind. Hopefully it will lead to more such efforts. If the book lags in some aspect, it is the editing. Often enough the language is wrong and the proofreading leaves a little to be desired. But the plot, and the presentation, take full marks.

    kogon

    Kogon Plan

    Written by: Naeem Baig

    Pages: 342; Price: Rs1200

    Published by: University of Management and Technology Press